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The Breadwinner: Modern Day Social Constructs

America has made strides when it comes to equality for men and women in society – but are we still lacking that in our own homes?

Over the past century, a woman’s role in American society has changed dramatically. Most people don’t even bat an eye anymore if a woman wants to go to school, have a career, and maybe, just maybe, not even have children. If she’s got a husband, though… well, that could change things.

One of the most prehistoric social constructs is family ranking—which is understandable because it originates from a natural human phenomenon. Men would go out and hunt while women would stay back and nurture their young. This was our means of survival. 

Even with all the change and growth our culture has experienced, we still seem to hold on to this “natural order.” The men are to bring in the primary income. The men are to be the head of the household in every way. The women are to raise the children and, if necessary, bring in a secondary source of income. So here we are, a glorious country that has finally given women all their rights and accepts them as equals… UNLESS there happens to be a man in her life.

Why might this way of thinking go from our means of survival to our demise? For men, it means never feeling like you have the choice to be a full-time father; otherwise, you’re criticized for “not being a man.” Now let's not rid the world of masculinity. Fix the stuff, be the protector, have the beard. But if a man is a good dad and would genuinely love having the opportunity to stay at home with his kids, why shouldn’t he have that option like women so tolerably do? Maybe this is why so many of our men are failing at being fathers—we’re not holding them as accountable, we’re not letting them be as accountable.

For women, it means feeling guilty for wanting to have a career or even feeling like that’s not even an option. Too many women would have no idea how to provide for themselves if they had to because they have relied on men to take care of them their entire life.

Working at a welfare agency has shown me just what I’ve said. We see both men and women owing child support, but there are significantly more men. Some are drowning in overdue payments. Do you think it would be different if we really started seeing fathers just as responsible and significant as mothers when it came to raising children?

What about the women who come in who have never worked a day in their lives and are solely living off of their deceased husband's Social Security and wondering why they cannot make ends meet, wondering what to do? Would their outlook be different if they too could have more acceptably made financial moves and decisions over their household? Possibly.

'Passing judgment based on stereotypes is outdated and we’re better than that.'

We are weakening our family structure and subsequently our species by holding these stigmas. We’re perpetuating the idea that men aren’t good caregivers and women aren’t good breadwinners. Both men and women should feel free to choose which spouse will be the key wage earner based on what they feel would be best for their family dynamic. Just like everything else, what works for one family may not be what works best for another. Passing judgment based on stereotypes is outdated and we’re better than that. Be glad there’s no cookie cutter way to do things. Respect the human experience for what it is. Individual. Diverse.

Never let the views of others determine or negatively affect your experience. No matter if your role fits into a socially constructed idea or not, you are equivalent in importance. There may always be an alpha, even if just slightly—but if there’s a head of a household, there has to be a neck.

Read next: On Womanhood
Rayelle McKown
Rayelle McKown

Rayelle and her fiancé live in Ohio with their two daughters. She has a degree in Science and works for the county in Human Services. She enjoys her family, food, and deep conversations. Find her on Facebook and Pinterest.

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The Breadwinner: Modern Day Social Constructs
Read Next
On Womanhood